An explosion that took the lives of 27 men, 11 white and 16 colored, occurred in the Mossboro mine of the Premier Coal Company near Helena Friday afternoon about 4 o'clock. Sixty men were at work in the mine.
The explosion was caused, most of the survivors stated, by an charge of black powder that blew backward and in the misfiring set off the coal dust. It is said to have been very severe and most of the men were believed to have been killed instantly.
The work of removing the bodies of the dead men required practically all Friday night. The blast loosed a pond of water that flowed into and filled the pit, making the work of the rescue all the more difficult. For hours the crew worked in water waist deep among heaps of fallen stone and twisted steel to find the badly mangled bodies of the dead men.
Several of the men, it is said, had been at work in the mine only a week. Some of them were in the Overton mine on December 10, 1925 when an explosion took the lives of 53 men.
27 Known Dead, 26 Survive in New Mine Blast
Modesto News-Herald, California
January 30, 1926
Birmingham, Ala., Jan. 29. -- (AP) -- Twenty-seven miners, eleven white and 16 negroes, were killed in an explosion late today at the Mossboro mine of the Premier Coal Company near Helena. Fifty-three were in the mine at the time of the blast, 25 of them escaping uninjured.
Birmingham, Ala., Jan. 29. -- (AP) -- Sixty-three miners were trapped late today in Mossboro mine of the Premier Coal Company near Helena, and it is feared 38 of that number are dead. Twenty-five men have been brought out alive. The known dead numbers ten, that many bodies having been recovered.
Mine Is Located In an Isolated Section
The mine is in an isolated spot, difficult of access and cut off from wire communication. A relief train was en route to the scene from Birmingham carrying doctors, nurses and mine rescue crews. No local experienced nurses are available.
Twelve men alive were brought out in one group to be followed by another squad of 13 workers, reports reaching here said.
The cause of the accident is undetermined. Mining men familiar with the physical aspect of the property said they believed a pocket of gas had in some manner accumulated and exploded. The men were entombed just at quitting time.
News of the disaster spread rapidly by means of the "communication of the hills," and within 30 minutes wives and children and other relatives were about the pit waiting and calling for loved ones. A biting cold wind added to the misery of those awaiting word from their relatives.
Grave Fears Felt for All Men in the Pit
The mine is on property belonging to the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railway Company and is leased to the Premier Coal Company. It is almost a new mine with a 1,000 foot slope.
A telephone report from the neighborhood said that grave fears had been expressed that all men in the pit were dead.
A large number of the miners lived in Helena. The road from that town to the mining camp, narrow and ill kept, was crowded with automobiles, wagons and pedestrians, all rushing to Mossboro. Four crews of expert workers were on their way to the mine tonight, including a unit of the United States mine bureau.
Miners brought out alive told grave stories of a sudden roar, a flash of fire -- of men screaming and dying at their side. One man told of seeing his brother killed in the same entry in which he was working while others told of friends with whom they had worked and played for years being horribly burned and killed in the flash of flames.
Listing of Fatalities and Injured in the Mossboro Mine Explosion
Taken from The Shelby County Reporter
February 4, 1926
James Adams; Robert Ball; Pat Burke; William Carrick; Glenn Duncan; Henry Gold; W. J. Harrison; M. J. Holloway; Doyle Lambert; Joe Mayner; Henry Oakes.
W. M. Odum; Hassey Harris; Will Johnson; Henry Peterson; Enoch Woodwon; W. H. Segress.
Those still in the mine, but who are believed to be dead are:
Amberson Grigley; More Coillins; Eli Tradewell; Willie Temple; Cliff Gibson; Willie Fitts; Primus Hendersib; Rodger Williams; Sam Hawkins.
Those who escaped:
J. D. Lowery; J. B. Lowery, a son Edgar Lowery; Zach Chapman; Lonnie Chapman; Lloyd Robertson; B. D. Gold; George Zimmerman.
Will Simmons; Jess Chestnut; Stanley Maddox; Walter Pearce; Archie Jackson; Percy Pearce; Scott Saulders; Fletcher Anderson; Will Lambert; Millard Garner; G. G. Garner.